▶ More than 1,300 com­peti­tors, rel­a­tively new to the sport, get their chance in the spot­light at Mubadala Arena ahead of the Abu Dhabi World Pro­fes­sional Cham­pi­onship

The National - News - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE - AMITH PASSELA

The open­ing day of the Jiu-Jitsu Fes­ti­val, which pre­cedes the 10th stag­ing of the Abu Dhabi World Pro­fes­sional Jiu-Jitsu Cham­pi­onship, saw more than 1,300 Emi­ratis from na­tional ser­vice vy­ing for the 12 gold medals on of­fer.

The com­pe­ti­tion, ex­clu­sively for those serv­ing their coun­try, pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity for a num­ber of fight­ers rel­a­tively new to the mar­tial art to per­form in the spot­light at Mubadala Arena yes­ter­day.

Ac­cord­ing to Dar­wish Fouad, gen­eral man­ager of Palms Sports – the tech­ni­cal arm of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Fed­er­a­tion – a ma­jor­ity of the com­peti­tors had spent a lit­tle more than six months pre­par­ing for the com­pe­ti­tion.

“It takes some ef­fort for those who were suc­cess­ful to­day,” Fouad said. “It’s not nor­mally the case where you have 12 gold medals with more than 1,300 com­pet­ing for it. It was unique in the his­tory of this event where more than 100 were fight­ing in the white belt di­vi­sions.”

Ab­dul­lah Al Ju­naibi was among the vet­er­ans at the com­pe­ti­tion. Re­turn­ing to the mat af­ter two years, he won a gold medal in the 65-kilo­gram blue belt cat­e­gory by beat­ing Salem Khal­ifa Al Kaabi, 5-2, on points.

“I took a break from jiu-jitsu to spend more time on my stud­ies but started to train again af­ter join­ing the na­tional ser­vice eight months ago,” said Al Ju­naibi, who turns 19 next month.

“I have been prac­tis­ing jiu-jitsu for more than seven years and got se­lected for the UAE na­tional age group team. I trained with them for a month in 2016 but had to leave jiu-jitsu for a while to spend more time to study.”

Al Ju­naibi, who spent a few sum­mer months in Tokyo for short cour­ses, will ap­ply for a spot at Tokai Univer­sity once he com­pletes his na­tional ser­vice duty in Au­gust.

“I’m try­ing to bal­ance both my stud­ies and jiu-jitsu, which I want to con­tinue un­til I reach black belt,” said Al Ju­naibi, who wants to grad­u­ate as an elec­tro-me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer.

He has had some suc­cess at the ju­nior level, win­ning gold in the orange belt cat­e­gory at the Jiu-Jitsu Fes­ti­val in 2014. He also took home bronze and gold medals from the Gulf Cham­pi­onship in 2013 and 2015, re­spec­tively.

“The idea here to pro­vide the young cadets [a stage to show­case their tal­ents] was a good move, be­cause they have been train­ing and have now ex­pe­ri­enced what com­pe­ti­tions are all about,” Al Ju­naibi said.

Ham­dan Mo­hammed Ali is an­other young Emi­rati to revive his pas­sion for jiu-jitsu af­ter join­ing na­tional ser­vice.

He won gold in the 56kg white belt divi­sion.

“I had pre­vi­ously taken part in a school com­pe­ti­tion in Abu Dhabi two years ago and started jiu-jitsu again af­ter join­ing na­tional ser­vice,” Mo­hammed Ali said.

“I won a bronze at the school com­pe­ti­tion and now [I have] won gold in this event. The train­ing I have had at na­tional ser­vice seems to have im­proved my fight­ing skills.

“I want to join the mil­i­tary when I pass out from na­tional ser­vice and con­tinue my jiu-jitsu.”

Ahmed Saeed Al Kindi was ec­static af­ter com­ing away with gold in the 69kg white belt cat­e­gory de­spite hav­ing trained for just eight months.

“Now I will con­tinue to train hard and par­tic­i­pate in more com­pe­ti­tions,” said the 24-year-old from Fu­jairah.

Vic­tor Besa / The Na­tional

Mem­bers of the UAE’s na­tional ser­vice took to the mat yes­ter­day in the Jiu-Jitsu Fes­ti­val at Mubadala Arena

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